2 May 2005

There is strong opposition in Fiji to plans to free all coup convicts and end investigations

7:08 am on 2 May 2005

There's fierce opposition in Fiji to proposed legislation to free all coup convicts and end all coup investigations.

The Fiji Sun reported at the weekend that the junior partner in the government, the pro-coup Conservative Alliance, has confirmed it is drafting such legislation to be known as the Reconciliation Bill.

The party's president, Ratu Tanoa Visowaqa, said the Bill would stop all court cases and investigations of those involved in the coup to bring about unity and reconciliation.

But the former opposition leader, Mick Beddoes, says the Bill would have nothing to do with reconciliation but mislead the people of Fiji and the international community, and also make a joke of the country's judicial system.

The general secretary of the SVT party, Ema Druavesi, says the Bill has been brought to buy votes because general elections are just around the corner.

The executive director of the Citizens Constitutional Forum, the Rev Aquila Yabaki, says such a Bill would be in breach of the Constitution which vests the power to grant pardons only in the president on the recommendation of the Prerogative of Mercy Commission.

The Rev Yabaki says the government should be mindful of its obligations under the Harare Declaration of Commonwealth leaders and the Cotonou Agreement with the European Union, which require it to uphold the rule of law.